10 tips for staying fall-free this winter

Snow, ice increases chances of seniors taking a tumble

The winter weather has arrived, and with it so have icy conditions that can lead to an unexpected slip or trip.

Falls are the most common cause of injury among British Columbia seniors and are the main reason why older adults lose their independence, according to the provincial Ministry of Health.

Each year, one in three seniors over the age of 65 experiences at least one fall, and nearly 40 per cent of fall-related hospitalizations involve a hip fracture, which greatly impacts the health and well-being of the senior, as well as the B.C. health-care system.

Winter conditions, such as snow and ice, are known to increase the likelihood of experiencing a fall. Last year, 319 B.C. seniors aged 65 and older experienced fall-related hospitalizations due to ice and snow.

“Seniors value their independence. Preventing falls is one way we can make sure seniors are supported and able to stay active in their community,” says provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall.

According to Canadian Institute of Health Information data, more than 70 per cent occurred between January and March. This information is often  referred to as the tip of the iceberg, as many more fall injuries are treated in clinics, emergency departments and doctors’ offices.

Falls usually happen due to factors that can be prevented. Identifying fall risks and taking the appropriate action to prevent falls can help seniors to stay independent and increase their overall health and well-being.

Here are the Top 10 tips to help you stay on your feet and out of hospital this winter:

1. Check your traction. Wearing appropriate shoes and boots for slippery  sidewalks and stairs can help to avoid a fall. Research has shown that wearing an anti-slip shoe device can reduce the risk of a fall in icy conditions.

2. Slow down. Falls often occur when you’re in a rush, so give yourself plenty of time and avoid being hurried.

3. Stay connected. Letting people know your plans and taking a cellphone  with you when you leave the house are great ways to keep in touch with  friends and family this holiday season.

4. Vitamin D and calcium. Research has shown that Vitamin D and calcium  play an important role for muscular strength and bone health. During the  winter months, it is especially important to eat foods high in Vitamin D  and calcium and/or take supplements to get the recommended daily intake.

5. Stay active. Strong muscles and bones are important in preventing falls and getting around safely. If winter conditions make it unsafe to exercise outdoors, stay active with an indoor routine that includes strengthening and balance exercises.

6. Bring in the salt. Keep your salt and shovel indoors to avoid slipping while on your way to the garage or storage shed to get it.

7. Shovel the walkway. Keep your steps and pathways clear. Check your railings and ensure they are sturdy, as they may save you from an unexpected slip or trip.

8. Ask for help. Most people are happy to help an older person navigate across a slippery sidewalk or parking lot.

9. Have a plan. If you experienced a fall, what would you do? Being  prepared in the event of a fall can assist in getting help as quickly as possible, and may even save your life.

10. Ask yourself if you are at risk. Check your risk for falling with the Staying Independent fall risk assessment tool: www.seniorsbc.ca/stayingindependent